The UK is bracing for several days of thunderstorms after a hot weekend that saw parts of the country grapple with wildfires, but the change in weather is likely to bring more danger than relief, forecasters have warned.
The lack of rain and high temperatures have caused drought conditions that have changed much of the country’s landscape from green to brown and yellow.
An amber heat warning remained in place on Sunday as temperatures remained above 30C in parts of the UK.
Significant fires have been reported in parts of London, Kent and Essex in the last two days, while the weather has also led to fire incidents. people who have difficulty swimming in lakes, rivers and the sea.
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Fire and rescue services have been tackling an enormous number of wildfires across the country, especially in the southeast, where there has been very little rain since January.
Several services have described the recent demand as “unprecedented”, with Dorset reporting that during the first 10 days of August it dealt with 180 bushfires, compared to just 34 last year.
And the four days of thunderstorms expected in the coming week likely won’t offer much relief.
Instead, the driest conditions in nearly 50 years, which have visibly lower reservoir water levels and drought officially declared in eight areas of England on Saturday, it can cause flooding.
The storms are likely to bring significant rain, but it may be too soon.
Geographers and meteorologists say that the best kind of rain to bring the earth out of its parched state would be a light drizzle.
Instead of penetrating baked soil, the expected downpours could trigger large amounts of surface runoff, which could cause flash flooding and even power outages, the Weather Bureau warned.
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Met Office forecaster Dan Stroud explained that “rain from really heavy downpours won’t be able to penetrate the baked soil quickly.”
“It’s very difficult for water to get in because it has to push the air out of the ground. So the dry ground gets overwhelmed very quickly and then we have surface runoff,” he added.
The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for thunderstorms, saying they could cause significant disruption on Monday in all but the northernmost parts of the UK.
“Spray and flash flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures,” he said.
“There is a small chance that homes and businesses will be flooded quickly, with some buildings damaged by flooding, lightning, hail or high winds.
“Where flooding or lightning strikes, there is the possibility of delays and some cancellations in train and bus services.
“There is a small chance of power outages and loss of other services for some homes and businesses.”
The yellow warning for thunderstorms will fall south through the week, affecting only England on Tuesday and then southern England on Wednesday.
There are no warnings for Thursday.